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Adoption Foster Care Glossary

Adoption Foster Care Glossary

Adoption: The official transfer through the court system of all of the parental rights that a biological parent has to a child, along with an assumption by the adopting parent of all of the parental rights of the biological parents that are being terminated and are assumed in their entirety by the adoptive parents, including the responsibility for the care and supervision of the child, its nurturing and training, its physical and emotional health, and its financial support.


Adoptive Parents: Although this term is often used to refer to both parents that are seeking to adopt, and parents that already have adopted, it is probably more commonly used to describe parents that are seeking to adopt, although since many parents will adopt on more than one occasion, they could be both an adoptive parent who has already adopted, and an adoptive parent who is seeking to adopt.


Agency Adoptions: Adoption placements that are made by state licensed adoption agencies that screen prospective adoptive parents and supervise the placement of children in adoptive homes until the adoption is finalized. Most agency adoptions will also include some form of counseling and/or support services for the adoptive parents and the birth parents that are involved in the placement.


Biracial Adoptions: A term used to refer to the adoption of children who have biological parents that are of different races.


Caseworker: Also sometimes referred to as “Adoption Worker” or “Adoption Caseworker” or “Social Worker.” These are the individuals that prepare adoption home studies for prospective adoptive parents, assist prospective adoptive parents in obtaining their pre-adoption certification, where required, assist in provide post-placement supervision of adoptive families, once they have received their child, and counsel with adoptive families to help them adapt the changes that they undergo in their lives as the result of adoption


Closed Adoptions: This is the most traditional type of adoption that is still used today, but is declining in popularity as the focus in the relationships between adoptive parents and birth parents is shifting from the lack of information and total confidentiality, to shared information and privacy. In these adoptions, the birth family and the adoptive family do not share any identifying information about them, and do not communicate with each other, either before or after the placement of the child. The adoptive family will, however, receive non-identifying health and other background information about the child and the birth family before the placement takes place. The birth parents may also receive non-identifying information about the adoptive parents. The adoption files will be sealed after the adoption, and typically are never made available to the adopted child.


Domestic Adoption: An adoption that involves adoptive parents and a child that are citizens and residents of the United States.


Foster Care: Placing a child in the temporary care of a family other than its own as the result of problems or challenges that are taking place within the birth family, or while critical elements of an adoption are being completed.


Foster Children: Children that are in the legal guardianship or custody of a state, county, or private adoption or foster care agency, yet are cared for by foster parents in their own homes, under some kind of short-term or long-term foster care arrangement with the custodial agency. These children will generally remain in foster care until they are reunited with their parents, or until their parents voluntarily consent to their adoption by another family, or until the court involuntarily terminates or severs the parental right of their biological parents, so that they can become available to be adopted by another family. Therefore, the parental rights of the parents of these children may or may not have been terminated or severed, and the children may or may not be legally available for adoption.


Foster/Adoption Placements: A child is placed with the foster/adopt family before the parental rights of the birth parents have been legally terminated, so there is still a possibility that the child may eventually be reunited with his or her birth family. If the parental rights of the child’s birth parents are terminated, the foster/adopt family will be given preference to adopt the child.


Foster Parents: Although this term has a wide variety of possible definitions, it is generally used to refer to adults who are licensed by the state- or county to provide a temporary home for children whose birth parents are unable to care for them. These services may be provided with or without compensation, and can often continue for several months or even years, depending on the circumstances of the child and the foster parents.


Home Study: A home study is sometimes called an “adoption study,” and is a written report containing the findings of the social worker who has met on several occasions with the prospective adoptive parents, has visited their home, and who has investigated the health, medical, criminal, family and home background of the adoptive parents. If there are other individuals that are also living in the home of the adoptive parents, they will be interviewed and investigated, if necessary, by the social worker and included as part of the home study. The purpose of the home study is to help the court determine whether the adoptive parents are qualified to adopt a child, based on the criteria that have been established by state law.


International Adoptions: These adoptions involve children who were born in a country other than where the adoptive parents reside or are citizens, or who are citizens of a country other than where they live. These adoptions not only involve the normal state and federal laws that apply to all domestic adoptions, but they also are impacted by the laws of foreign countries and international treaties, but also require immigration approvals from the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service.


Open Adoption: Every adoption of this type will be different, based on the type of relationship that the birth parents and the adoptive parents have agreed to. Both identifying and non-identifying information about the adoptive parents and the birth parents is shared with each other, which can include last names, addresses, and telephone numbers. In some open adoptions, the birth parent and the adoptive family know each other and have ongoing communication about the child. If the parents on both sides agree, the adoptive parents may even be allowed to be present for the delivery of the child, thus allowing them to vicariously share in the birthing process. Neither the birth parents nor the adoptive parents are forced to participate in an open adoption if that is not what they are comfortable with. Although there is some disagreement on the subject, it is suggested that the child, and thus the adoptive parents that will be raising the child, are the primary beneficiaries of some of the most significant benefits that can result from an open adoption


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